M A I N   N E W S

Slugfest over Badal pics on ambulances
Aditi Tandon/ TNS

New Delhi, Sept 15
The Centre and the the Akali Dal-led Punjab Government continue to slug it out on the issue of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal’s pictures on the ambulances that are partially funded by the Ministry of Health under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM).

The Ministry has stopped the flow of funds to the state under the free referral transport service under the National Ambulance Service (108) component of the NRHM, Congress-led UPA’s flagship programme.

Not stopping at that, the ministry has warned the state of permanent slashing of funds under the said component in case it did not remove Badal’s pictures and restore the “national character of the National Ambulance Service scheme”.

The Ministry of Health officials say the NRHM is a national programme and requires states to abide by the national guidelines such as national branding and uniformity in the colour scheme and character of ambulances funded under the NAS. “Fund flow is subject to guideline adherence and this is repeatedly made clear to states during the project approval board meetings to release the NRHM funds every year,” a Health Ministry official said.

The ministry’s argument is that the 108 project is a national programme under the NRHM and has a national slogan and national character. “The state governments are not allowed to alter the national branding guidelines. That amounts to the dilution of the nationally uniform nature of the scheme and calls for stoppage of funds as provided in the guidelines for NRHM,” a health ministry official said.

Importantly, this is not the first time the Centre has insisted on a state dropping its credentials from the NRHM initiatives. Some time back the Congress-led UPA government had asked the Samajwadi Party government in Uttar Pradesh to drop the tag “Samajwadi Swasthya Sewa” it had given to the National Ambulance Service scheme.

Earlier, the Centre had similarly asked the former BSP government in UP to drop “Mukhya Mantri Maha Maya Sachal Aspatal Yojana” tag that had been given to the mobile medical unit component under the NRHM.

The action against the Punjab government followed a letter from the recently appointed MoS Health Santosh Choudhary to the chief minister to restore the original character of the NAS scheme under the NRHM to allow the Centre to retrieve the funds due to the state.

Punjab for its part has refused to comply, arguing that it pays a higher proportion of the scheme’s cost and the sharing ratio is 80:20 between the state and the Centre.

When the ambulance scheme was launched in 2008, the scheme’s cost sharing ration between the state and the Centre 40:60. In the year 2011, the ratio was changed between the states and the Centre to 60:40 and in the year 2013 to 80:20.

A senior Akali Dal leader further argued, “What about when national programmes are named after former prime ministers Indira Gandhi and Rajeev Gandhi? Is Indira Aawas Yojana, Rajeev Gandhi Vidyutikaran Yojana and countless such programmes not funded by the Indian taxpayer’s money? Why are they then named after the leaders of a particular political party? Is that not a violation of any guideline? Why these double standards?”

With the two sides firmly pitched on their respective stands in the run up to the Lok sabha elections, it remains to be seen who has the last laugh.

Health Ministry’s take

The NRHM is a national programme and requires states to abide by the national guidelines such as national branding and uniformity in colour scheme. Fund flow is subject to guideline adherence

Punjab’s stand

Punjab has refused to comply. It argues that states pay a higher proportion of the scheme’s cost and the sharing ratio between the state and the Centre now is 80:20 





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